So, it's Christmas. I'm not entirely sure where 2016 went but if I am honest? I am quite glad to see the tail end of it.
Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, a great opportunity for reflection and love. Visiting those whom we ought to see more and those we enjoy seeing less. It's a time where drinking alcohol for breakfast is completely acceptable and nipping in to deliver Christmas cards gives you a rosy glow, due to all the sherry, mulled wine and various other yuletide tipples.
My partner calls it silly season. Party after party after party.
Now, I am not a fan of publicly announcing when my other half educates me on details I didn't know, but this year he has and whilst I am very thankful for the information, I also curse him on a daily basis for ruining a vast majority of my social soirees. However it is knowledge I think needs to be shared amongst us because I believe it is one of the most misunderstood laws in the UK.
Drink Driving. We all know the rules right? The legal limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 milliliters of blood or 35 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 milligrams of breath. So, if you are over the limit, bye bye license.
Lots of companies and even the governments own various Drink Drive adverts over the years have narrowed it down to this guide when it comes to drinking and driving.
Men should consume no more than 4 units, women no more than 3. When drinking the night before driving men should consume no more than 10 units, women no more than 7. (This assumes that no alcohol is drunk after 11:30pm, and that driving doesn't take place before 8am the following morning)
Narrow this down even further, one 175ml glass of wine is around 2.3 units. A pint of beer is around 2.8 units. A pub measure (35ml) of Gin is around 1.3 units.
So with that presumption I have always allowed myself a small glass of wine or a gin and tonic. Feeling safe in the knowledge that I won't be breaking any laws and certainly won't lose my license.
Well. I was wrong. And I don't think the following facts are highlighted enough by the government, the media or industry related publications.
The law we all know is S5 of the Road Traffic Act. Being over the prescribed limit through drink. There is also S5a, being over the prescribed limit for a specific drug, illegal and some prescribed medicines.
The law I don't believe we all know is S4 of the Road Traffic Act. Driving whilst unfit through drink and drugs.
S4 means you can be under the legal limit. But if the officer finds a trace of alcohol on your breath or blood and believes that alcohol is the reason you have committed an offense, you can still lose your license.
An example. I have one glass of wine. Leave the pub. I notice one of my rear lights has gone. I'll fix it in the morning. I am driving behind someone extremely slow and annoying, I have Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas on my stereo, I want to get home but this snail is in my way, I edge a little closer to let him know I am behind him and would like to move things along a little, he ignores me, so I decide to overtake. I overtake well, but pull in slightly too early causing him to brake. I haven't broken the speed limit at any point. I haven't been tailgating him for miles, flashing my lights. In fact I have driven in exactly the same manner as I would have any other day or evening. Then I notice police lights behind me. I pull over.
The policeman ticks me off for pulling in to early and gives me a long and slightly patronising lecture on my driving and the fact I have a rear light out. He calls it aggressive, I call it assertive. He asks me to take a breath test. I agree. I am under the limit.
The policeman decides that I drove agressively due to the alcohol in my system and that, if I continue on my journey I may cause an accident.
I argue that I was following someone doing 25mph in a 50mph zone and my driving wasn't aggressive, I was passing a slow vehicle in the most efficient way I could.
Policeman gets annoyed with me for not respecting his authority. I am arrested under S4 of the Road Traffic Act. Drink Driving.
I lose my license.
Whilst I personally believe it would be hard to make this conviction stick, the argument being it wasn't the alcohol making me drive that way, it is my usual driving style and therefore should not be seen as a drink driving offense. The whole process of going through court, getting a decent defense solicitor and the associated risk that I won't win my case, is just a risk I am not willing to take.
So. If I am driving, I am not drinking. If I am drinking, I am not driving. Simple. Eliminates any risk at all.
The S4 law is a lot more complicated than this. But I had no idea that I could still be convicted of drink driving if I was under the legal limit. I am pretty sure most of my friends don't know this either.
So, this Christmas, ask yourself is it really worth the risk. For that one glass? For me it isn't. Which is why I am spending this month, curled up on my sofa, with a Christmas hat on and at least 8 bottles of gin, face-timing my mates at all their parties.
Happy Christmas Everyone.